Territorial survey of the town

With an area of 8,331 km², Crete is the largest of Greece’s islands and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean. Its fertile soil and crucial geographical position in the Eastern Mediterranean made it a centre of production, communications, trade and culture across the millennia.
The long narrow shape of the island and the dominance of the mountain massifs in the interior meant that the sites of the few natural harbours on its otherwise inhospitable coasts were settled from a very early date, and the towns that developed there have retained their importance to this day. The Neolithic settlement that grew up on the site of Chania owed its existence to the relatively sheltered bay and the natural fortress of what is now known as Castelli Hill. During the Minoan period, this elevation was occupied by a settlement of exceptional importance - Ku-do-ni-ja. Situated in the middle of a very fertile area, it developed into the third most important urban centre on the island in that age.
The first fortification on the hill dates from the Hellenistic age, while in the 1st Byzantine period (6th–7th century) the area was refortified with a very strong defensive wall. Through the Arab and 2nd Byzantine periods the city lived within the confines of its walls: it was at this time that the name of Chania first appeared. After being taken by the Venetians in 1252, the city was rebuilt within the perimeter of its original fortifications. In that age it was the second most important city in Crete, and the first port of call for ships out of Venice. A system of smaller forts was built on Chania and Souda Bays for additional protection.
Towards the middle of the 16th century the Venetians refortified the cities and other key points in Crete. In 1538 work began on a new enclosure wall for Chania, on the system of bastioned fortification, and particular attention was paid to the defence of the port.
In 1645 Chania fell to the Ottoman Empire; the city retained its importance under this new regime. After Crete was united with Greece in 1913, whole sections of its walls, which no longer served as defensive structures, were pulled down. With the development of the adjacent port of Souda over the course of the 20th century, the port of Chania was reduced to a purely local concern.